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Vascular Plants of California
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Frangula californica

Higher Taxonomy
Family: RhamnaceaeView DescriptionDichotomous Key
Habit: [Perennial herb] shrub, tree, generally erect, often thorny. Leaf: simple, generally alternate, often clustered on short-shoots; stipules generally present, occasionally modified into spines; generally petioled; blade pinnate-veined or 1--5-ribbed from base. Inflorescence: cyme, panicle, umbel, or flowers 1 or clustered in axils or on short-shoots. Flower: generally bisexual, radial; hypanthium subtending, surrounding, or partly fused to ovary; sepals 4--5; petals 0, 4--5, generally clawed; stamens 0, 4--5, alternate sepals, attached to hypanthium top, each generally fitting into a petal concavity; disk (0 or) between stamens, ovary, thin to fleshy, entire or lobed, free from ovary, adherent or fused to hypanthium; ovary superior or +- inferior, chambers [1]2--4, 1--2-ovuled, style 1, stigma entire or 2--3-lobed. Fruit: capsule, drupe.
Genera In Family: 50--52 genera, 950 species: especially tropics, subtropics some cultivated (Ceanothus; Frangula; Rhamnus; Ziziphus).
eFlora Treatment Author: John O. Sawyer, Jr., except as noted
Scientific Editor: Steve Boyd, Thomas J. Rosatti.
Genus: FrangulaView DescriptionDichotomous Key

Habit: Shrub, small tree. Stem: branches alternate, flexible; winter bud scales 0. Leaf: scattered along branches or clustered on short-shoots, deciduous or not; stipules generally deciduous; petioled; blade veins prominent or not. Inflorescence: umbel or flowers 1 in axils. Flower: bisexual; hypanthium 1--3 mm wide, cup-shaped; sepals 5, erect, fleshy, keeled adaxially; petals 5, short-clawed; stamens 5; disk thin, adherent to hypanthium; ovary +- inferior, chambers 2--3, 1--2-ovuled, stigma 2--3-lobed. Fruit: drupe, 2--3[4]-stoned.
Species In Genus: 50 species: temperate, w. Med, Eurasia. Etymology: (Frangible: capable of being broken) Note: Often a subg. of Rhamnus; some of value in food, medicine.
eFlora Treatment Author: John O. Sawyer, Jr.
Reference: Sawyer & Edwards 2007 Madroño 54:172--174
Unabridged Reference: Bolmgren & Oxelman 2004 Taxon 53:383--390; Wolf 1938 Rancho Santa Ana Bot Gard Monogr 1.
Frangula californica (Eschsch.) A. Gray
Habit: Shrub < 5 m. Stem: bark bright gray, brown, or red; twigs brown, gray, or red, glabrous, tomentose, or hairs of 2 lengths; terminal bud glabrous to velvety. Leaf: generally evergreen; petiole 3--10 mm; blade 20--100 mm, elliptic to ovate, +- leathery, +- glabrous to tomentose, base acute to rounded, tip truncate to acute or mucronate, margin entire to toothed, +- rolled under or not, veins generally prominent. Inflorescence: 5--60-flowered; pedicel < 20 mm. Flower: hypanthium 1--2 mm wide. Fruit: generally 2-stoned, 10--15 mm, black.
Note: Subspecies intergrade in intermediate habitats.
Synonyms: Rhamnus californica Eschsch.
Unabridged Note: Frangula californica grows throughout most of California and the subspecies are somewhat separated geographically, but intermediates and variants in California exist between all the subspecies except subsp. ursina (C.B. Wolf 1938). In California, Frangula californica subsp. ursina occurs only in San Bernardino Co., Frangula californica subsp. californica is the most coastal, growing from the western Klamath Mountains south to Agua Tibia Mtn in southern California., Frangula californica subsp. occidentalis is characteristic of mafic and ultramafic substrates in northwest California; plants on other substrates approach Frangula californica subsp. californica, but leaf blades are equally green (not yellow-green) on both surfaces. Wolf reported that "from San Francisco Bay region to Santa Barbara Co. is a form of Rhamnus californica in which the leaves are whitened beneath, but upon examination show pubescence much shorter than that in Rhamnus tomentella. In older leaves it often disappears. This form is very abundant". Plants in Los Angeles and Orange counties have leaf blades with sparse (not dense) tomentum and a few long hairs beneath as in Frangula californica subsp. cuspidata. Intermediates between Frangula californica subsp. crassifolia and Frangula californica subsp. tomentella are rare in northern California, but many plants in San Diego Co. "have leaves narrowly to broadly elliptical and many would pass for Frangula californica subsp. crassifolia in the Inner Coast Range." He considered these plants variants of Frangula californica subsp. tomentella. Some plants in southern Oregon vary in leaves from those of Frangula californica subsp. occidentalis. The Frangula californica complex needs study using modern techniques.
Jepson eFlora Author: John O. Sawyer, Jr.
Reference: Sawyer & Edwards 2007 Madroño 54:172--174
Index of California Plant Names (ICPN; linked via the Jepson Online Interchange)

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Botanical illustration including Frangula californica

botanical illustration including Frangula californica


Citation for this treatment: John O. Sawyer, Jr. 2012, Frangula californica, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora,, accessed on May 18, 2021.

Citation for the whole project: Jepson Flora Project (eds.) 2021, Jepson eFlora,, accessed on May 18, 2021.

Frangula californica subsp. occidentalis
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© 2008 Keir Morse
Frangula californica subsp. californica
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© 2016 Neal Kramer
Frangula californica subsp. californica
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© 2015 Keir Morse
Frangula californica subsp. cuspidata
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© 2010 Steve Matson
Frangula californica
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© 2006 Steve Matson
Frangula californica
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© 2009 Thomas Stoughton

More photos of Frangula californica in CalPhotos

Geographic subdivisions for Frangula californica:
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map of distribution 1
(Note: any qualifiers in the taxon distribution description, such as 'northern', 'southern', 'adjacent' etc., are not reflected in the map above, and in some cases indication of a taxon in a subdivision is based on a single collection or author-verified occurence).


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Data provided by the participants of the  Consortium of California Herbaria.
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All markers link to CCH specimen records. The original determination is shown in the popup window.
Blue markers indicate specimens that map to one of the expected Jepson geographic subdivisions (see left map). Purple markers indicate specimens collected from a garden, greenhouse, or other non-wild location.
Yellow markers indicate records that may provide evidence for eFlora range revision or may have georeferencing or identification issues.

CCH collections by month

Duplicates counted once; synonyms included.
Species do not include records of infraspecific taxa, if there are more than 1 infraspecific taxon in CA.
Blue line denotes eFlora flowering time (fruiting time in some monocot genera).